Pharmacy Errors and Workplace Safety Issues

Pharmacists Say Chaotic and Understaffed Workplaces May Result in Medication Errors

Have you ever picked up a prescription medication from your local pharmacy only to discover that you received the wrong drug or the wrong amount of the drug? You are not alone and in many cases, these kinds of medication errors result in serious and life-threatening injuries. According to a recent article in The New York Times, pharmacists in New York and across the country contend that “understaffed and chaotic workplaces” make it “difficult to perform their jobs safely, putting the public at risk of medication errors.” One pharmacist wrote an anonymous letter that stated: “I am a danger to the public working for CVS.”

Why are pharmacy workplaces so difficult? As the article explains, pharmacists “struggle to fill prescriptions, give flu shots, tend the drive-through, answer phones, work the register, counsel patients, and call doctors and insurance companies . . . all the while racing to meet corporate performance metrics that they characterized as unreasonable and unsafe.” Another pharmacist suggested that it is nearly impossible to complete the amount of work that needs to be done by pharmacists at places like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid without making some kind of mistake. Moreover, many of these pharmacies are cutting down on staff numbers, requiring pharmacists to complete more of the busywork that might be relegated to another pharmacy employee who does not have the expertise to fill prescriptions.

A disturbing fact that contributes to concerns about pharmacy errors is that the majority of state boards do not require pharmacies to report errors, and there are no requirements for an investigation when a medication error does occur. Pharmacists and safety advocates imply that these points reflect a bigger issue:  there is little being done about workplace conditions in pharmacies, and no meaningful attempts to change the safety of the workplace itself. Understaffing is among the leading worries. Pharmacists suggest that they would be able to do their jobs better, and with fewer medication mistakes, if understaffing were not a consistent problem.

Get the Facts About Medication Errors

Medication errors are a common type of medical error that can result in a patient injury and a medical malpractice claim. The following is information about medication mistakes from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): 

  • Medication errors are defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer”;
  • Many different types of healthcare providers can be responsible for medication errors, including physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, and even assistants entering drug information into an electronic system;
  • More than 100,000 medication error reports are logged by the FDA every year; and
  • Common types of medication mistakes include dispensing the wrong medication, dispensing the wrong amount of a medication, and failing to consider patient allergies or drug interactions.


If you have suffered injuries because of a medication mistake, you should discuss your case with a medical malpractice lawyer.


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